“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This quote from “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens describes perfectly last weekend, and we’re not talking about the city council putting together a bond schedule for the renovation of Radford schools or possibly approving a scrap metal/wire recycling center on Main Street. No, we’re talking about basketball championships.
First, the best of times: Radford City is the Virginia Class 2 boys basketball champion. They cruised to a victory over East Rockingham by a score of 74-50 Saturday, led by a 41-point performance by Quinton Morton-Robertson. “Q” took over the game in the second quarter with 22 points, including five baskets from three-point range. He ended up with 2001 total points for his distinguished high school career.
Bobcat starter PJ Prioleau tallied 11 points in the win, with Cam Cormany adding eight and Miles Jones chipping in four.
Radford denizens will remember this championship game and season for many years to come, with the Bobcats having achieved a perfect 30-0 record. The state championship is the third for Radford in the last four years (the other two were in Group 1A), and just one of the reasons for Radford’s nickname (at least in the city) of “Title Town.”
As a small aside, basketball was not the only domain where the Bobcats excelled Saturday. The Forensics Team came in 2nd place at the VHSL AA Region C/D tournament. They will be going to Cloverhill High School on March 30 for the VHSL State Tournament. Here are the individual results from Saturday: Sadie Wallace -1st Place Poetry; Sydney Schepisi-1st Place Storytelling; Caroline Bryant-2nd Place Humorous Interpretation; Riley Bloomer-2nd Place Original Oratory; Melany Fuentes- 3rd Place Extemp.; Isabella Walsh- 3rd Place Prose; Zoe Tapp/Rachel Lambert-4th Place Serious Duo; Elias Cerventes/Aaron Burnette-4th Place Humorous Duo; Audrey Bucy-4th Place Humorous Interpretation.
But back to basketball.
Sunday was not quite as enjoyable as Saturday in Radford. The Radford University men’s team took on a surging Gardner-Webb crew that it had beaten earlier in the season by 17 points, 75-58. The Highlanders were playing on a national ESPN broadcast, and the Dedmon Center was “rockin’.”
However, before fans at home could down their first diet Dr. Pepper or seriously impact a bowl of snacks, the Highlanders were losing by double digits. The Bulldogs’ DJ Laster couldn’t miss. Laster ended the game with 32 points, and although the Highlanders shaved Gardner-Webb’s lead to five points or so several times in the second half, Radford could not find a way to win.
As the Bulldogs danced and donned Big South Champion shirts and hats after the game, Radford senior Ed Polite, Jr. hid his tears of disappointment with his jersey on the bench. Radford fans knew exactly how Ed felt.
Gardner-Webb had won its first invitation to the “Big Dance,” the NCAA national basketball tournament, and the Highlanders will stay home, although they may get a bid to a secondary competition.
So, yes, this was an emotional weekend in Radford City with the Bobcats experiencing “the thrill of victory,” and the Highlanders encountering “the agony of defeat.” All of the players from both teams, however, will take with them their memories of this season.
Bobcat seniors Morton-Robertson, Jones, Braedon Moore, Davon Wood, Jeremy Chadwick, Jalen Phillips, Thor Sproule and Andrew Mann will leave the high school with a perfect season and a state championship. Underclassmen Prioleau, Cormany, Jackson McManus, Alex Kanipe, and Jon Woods will return to the Bobcat hardwoods and Coach Rick Cormany’s squad next year with hopes of hanging another championship banner from the rafters in the Radford gym. For now, though, they will all savor what they accomplished during their amazing run this year.
Coach Mike Jones’ Highlander team should also be proud of their accomplishments. The team was co-champions of the Big South for the regular season with a 12-4 record, and the majority of the squad will be back next year. They also beat much larger Notre Dame and Texas early in the season, bringing some additional national attention to the school. Jones continues to build the basketball program with hopes of developing a system where participation in the NCAA Tournament will be the norm and not the exception in the future.
Thank you, Bobcats and Highlanders, for the thrills and exhilaration throughout this year’s basketball season. We look forward to continuing to follow Miles Jones and Quinton Morton-Robertson, who have signed to continue their basketball careers a half mile or so down Main Street at Radford University.
We also are eager to see what the number one-seeded women’s Highlanders (23-6 and on a 15-game winning streak) squad will be able to do beginning tomorrow in the Big South Basketball Championships and, hopefully, March Madness.
One thing’s for sure: The basketball tradition in Radford, “Title Town,” continues.
Steve Frey is a writer and CEO of Ascendant Educational Services based in Radford.